Conferences

The Origin of Aids

A posh London conference tackles the Polio vaccine controversy.

Newsweek, September 6, 2000, Newsweek Web Exclusive © 2000 Newsweek

Medical conferences are fairly predictable affairs: a lot of hypotheses, an onslaught of data and, for the most part, congeniality-at least outwardly. But last week's gathering on the origin of AIDS at London's posh Royal Society-complete with afternoon tea-took on the excited and at times contentious tenor of a courtroom trial. On one side, Edward Hooper, author of "The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS," who believes that the virus was most likely introduced into humans through an experimental polio vaccine given in Africa in the late 1950s. On the other, scientists Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin who created the vaccine at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute. Hooper's presence as a non-scientist amidst hundreds of medical experts was remarkable, but the gravest implication of the theory is impossible to ignore: scientific culpability for a plague that has killed 18 million worldwide. "He deserves," says one of the conference organizers, "a hearing."

Letter to Guardian

It is most certainly not members of the Royal Society who should be criticised, but those who have backtracked about appearing at the conference, or worked to undermine it.

Letter to Guardian

Following the allegations you report (Royal Society accused in row over origins of HIV, March 30) that the proposed Royal Society discussion on the origins of HIV has been postponed "after pressure from opponents of the vaccine theory", I write to clarify the matter.

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